Monday, May 28, 2012

Appendix N & the OSR Revolution, Part 1

I remember hearing of a story about a father who said that if he wanted grass on his grave,then he might as well be buried in a field. He died in an automobile accident and his son took those words to heart. For many years he tended his father’s grave site and meticulously removed all traces of grass, and did so until he was too weak to continue. I wonder if his father actually wished to have his son do this for 50+ years, or if it was just an off the cuff remark? I wonder what words I have said or will say to my kids that might carry as much weight was the ones mentioned earlier.

Goodman Games has crafted and entire RPG (Dungeon Crawl Classics) around the words that Gary Gygax wrote in Appendix N of his First Edition Dungeon Masters Guide (DMG). Gary Gygax stated that he utilized multiple books as a background for Dungeons and Dragons and lists them in Appendix N. I would say that a majority of these books follow the sword and sorcery or low fantasy genre, even though The Lord of The Rings is listed as a source, which I consider high fantasy. I have not read many of the books on this list and most likely never will.

I saw on the Goodman Games forum a listing of people who are trying to get every book listed in Appendix N and are even posting pictures of their collections, much to the envy of other readers. There’s even a new line of adventure modules called, Appendix N Adventures. I have read the Dungeon Crawl Classics beta rules and think that the game would be fun to play, but I wonder if Gary Gygax realized just how much weight his written words would have on the world almost 34 years later?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Water bears

I am learning as much as I can about wastewater microbiology in preperation for State of Maine Class 5 wastewater exam.  I am preparing for this test, even though I have at least a year and a half before I can even sit for it.  Most people fail this test at least once, some fail it multiple times before they finally pass it.  I want to be able to say that I passed it the first time (did I just jinx myself?). 

The water bear is one of the higher forms of life that can be observed during a microscope examination of mixed liquor in an activated sludge plant.  I am intrigued by this little bugger, as are my kids.  I saw this neat poster by Alex Chitty on the blog the small science collective and wanted to post it here.  Here's the web address for the blog and post. 

Titles of posts

I was thinking of having titles for the different types of post that I plan on creating.  Topics would cover everything from RPGs, to waste or drinking water, and even some personal stuff.  Here's a list of 10 different types of posts that I would want to have. 
  1. Character corner
  2. Torn from the rules
  3. From the pages of Dragon magazine
  4. Notable Notions (from other blogs) Pragmatic plagiarism
  5. Featured creatures
  6. RPGs in the spotlight
  7. Smells like sludge, tastes like shit
  8. Adventure adoration
  9. Miscellaneous mumblings
  10. My house rules!
What do you think of this type of format?

Monsters as player characters

One of the things that intrigued me with 3.5 were the rules dealing with PC's being able to play races other than the standard vanilla ones. You wanna play a Kobold Magic User, O.K.. How about a Hobgoblin Ranger or an Orcish Thief, no problem. I thought that this was the first time that the idea of monster races as PCs had been presented in an official, canonic way, via a rulebook: I was wrong.

Page 21 of the First Edition Dungeon Masters Guide has a section titled The monster as a player character. Gary Gygax stated that Dungeon Masters were “on their own” with regards to monsters as player characters. He thought that there was the impossibility of any lasting success for a monster PC. He thought that it was most logical to play a humanocentric as we were human and would be “most desirous and capable of identifying with”. He thought that most upper level leaders would be human, as they have no upper level limits. Also men would want to bring ruin upon monster PCs. I suppose it is true that if a Kobold was walking around a town, especially a frontier town, dressed in armor and carrying weapons, that he would most likely be attacked by the town militia. In any campaign that I have ever ran or played, a Gnome would be as close to a monster that a PC could play. Here's some text from the d20 SRD explaining how 3.5 deals with this topic.

“While every monster has the statistics that a player would need to play the creature as a character, most monsters are not suitable as PCs. Creatures who have an Intelligence score of 2 or lower, who have no way to communicate, or who are so different from other PCs that they disrupt the campaign should not be used. Some creatures have strange innate abilities or great physical power, and thus are questionable at best as characters (except in high-level campaigns). Monsters suitable for play have a level adjustment given in their statistics. Add a monster’s level adjustment to its Humanoids and Class Levels to get the creature’s effective character level, or ECL. Effectively, monsters with a level adjustment become multiclass character when they take class levels. A creature’s “monster class” is always a favored class, and the creature never takes XP penalties for having it”.

Other games such as GURPS Fantasy Folk have rules for playing 24 races other than human. Some of these races are quite monstrous, like Centaurs or Fishmen, but a majority of the races described are the standard fantasy genre types like dwarves and haflings. There is a very nice section dealing with creating your own monstrous PC races, which makes this supplement worth picking up.

I hope to continue to find other interesting topics as I re-read the First Edition rulebooks.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I am still here

I am still here and haven't quit!  This month has been crazy with 4 birthdays, sick kids, and I have had to work 14 days straight.  I am working on new material to post and hope to be able to do it next week.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Neat post that I found about blue maps.

I found this neat post about the history of blue maps at and wanted to re-post it here (without permission).

Those Strange Blue Maps

“What’s with the blue map?”
My friend Wes looked up at me as if I was speaking in German; somewhat comprehensible, but ultimately gibberish to him.
As my words sunk in, he responded, obviously not even questioning the strange map color. “They have to be some color. Blue’s as good as any I guess.”
It was 1982 and we were looking at the adventure G1-2-3 Against the Giants, an amalgamation of the original three giant adventures (though we didn’t know that yet) and the first D&D “module” I got a close look at. Wes was wrong. It wasn’t just luck of the draw or some art director’s decision. There was a very calculated reason why the maps in old D&D adventures were blue, which we found out a few weeks later when we started to send modules to work with our fathers for photocopies.
Fast forward a few days later when I asked my dad if he go the copies done.
“Sorry, buddy,” my dad said. “For some reason I couldn’t get the maps to come out.” The reason was that in early copiers blues would register as either white or a very light gray (inversely reds showed as). TSR knew this, and that’s why they printed the maps in blue. It was a method to limit piracy. It was largely ineffective.
Looking back at it, it seems a tad ridiculous. I don’t think those maps getting loose could collapse the whole house of cards. Were all those maps of caverns, inexplicable dungeons, or trap-filled vaults was the main selling point? No. And I liked maps. Like many DMs I’m nerdy over them. Every national park I visited as a kid, I’d have to pick up the map and I loved to peruse my great uncle’s National Geographic collection, and I wasn’t only on the lookout for indigenous breasts.
Tomb of Horrors - Blue Map
Just a corner of the map from my duo-tone copy of S1 Tomb of Horrors. This printing is a later one. Earlier printings of this adventure featured a much lighter blue ink for the maps. Even for young boys with young eyes, these maps were hard to read.
At the same time it’s easy to put yourself in TSR’s shoes, though. RPG gamers are this strange mix of spendthrift and cheap as hell. I’ve always attributed that to the fact that most RPGs have more material than you can every really play or play with. I mean if I were to run, or just use the monsters, from everything that TSR or Wizards of the Coast produced in a 5 year period, it would probably take me at least 25 years to churn though it, assuming I ran weekly games. Eventually an RPG consumer realizes that at least half of what they buy is never going to see the light of play, so their solution is to want everything at bargain basement prices, which is unrealistic. In the 80s, as copiers were becoming more prevalent (one contributor to Out on a Limb in Dragon #3 calls it the “Xerox revolution”, a term I doubt he coined) game companies were probably scared to death that eventually one dude would set up shop a block from Gen Con and sell all the latest adventure for pennies on the dollar. I’m sure cloistered scribes felt the same kind of dread when Gutenberg set up shop. The fear is ultimately futile.
Blue maps sure as hell didn’t stop Wes and me. Soon our fathers learned that fiddling with the knobs on the photocopies would turn up the contrast just enough to get reasonably readable maps, and then we became intellectual property pirates long before such playful banter was thrown about. Of course we would rather have the real thing.
In fact, the very next month, Wes and I visited a real game shop in San Francisco. Both of us bought a product we already had a photocopy of. You see the photo copies had all of the information of the original, but none of the style. We were fans. We loved the game. It was important for us to have the real thing rather than cheap facsimiles.
Most of the time we had our dad make photocopies because it was hard to get games. You’re a kid in the 80s with a crappy allowance, no urge to peddle your meager lawn-mowing skills, and a good hour car drive away from the nearest game store. You pooled your resources and sent borrowed copies off to work with Pops…and then bought the real copy later. We were hungry for information and adventure, and when you are hungry, stealing becomes an option, even when the hunger is intellectual rather than physical.
People become intellectual pirates for one or two reasons. The first is that they really want something but either can’t afford it or get it readily anywhere else. The second is some people get off on the act of theft itself—it’s empowering. In the first instance, the person really likes what he is stealing, and the second the thing he enjoys is the stealing. Personally I see the first as an investment, and the second as the price of business (and it’s a fairly low price at that).
Does that mean companies should turn a blind eye to IP theft? Goodness no. Good measured responses are fine. In many ways that’s what these early blue maps where. Little speed bumps just in case you missed or misconstrued the legal text on the front cover. It really didn’t stop anyone; it was just reminder that you were doing something wrong.
Compare and contrast Wizards of the Coasts RPG PDF policy. For over a year now we have not been able to buy digital copies of D&D books from any edition (not counting Pathfinder, of course). Last year Wizards realized that there was piracy on the Internet and in an effort to punish the pirates, decided to take a huge chunk of D&D content off the web–almost all of it. Dragon and Dungeon magazines are still digital and you can buy many of the D&D novels in digital format (and both are all over file sharing sites), so the policy is wildly inconsistent. It also hasn’t stopped piracy; in fact it may have made it worse. As a test I decided to see how easy it would be to find a digital copy of Player’s Handbook 3 off the web. It took me less than a minute to find a free digital. Forty seconds later it was ready for download. Those damn guys who love stealing don’t let much stop ‘em.
Pirate Signed PH
Here’s a page from a downloaded copy of the 1e Player’s Handbook. The strange thing is that the pirate actually signed his work. Now, this signature could be a decoy, but I’m willing to bet that our friend is something akin to the Wynona Ryder of D&D books; thrilled by the challenge of “look what I can do and not get caught," rather than motivated by a hunger for material.
It used to be that content was king, but now product is king. With the internet, ideas are cheap and raw word too easily turned into pixels. These days good design, brilliant aesthetics, and great tools moves money from geek bank accounts to corporate tax shelters. And like it or not, the ability to get a digital copy to legitimate customers is an expected part of product offerings. Tablet computing and phones with more power than my first PC tower may just kill the physical book. An RPG company that doesn’t provide a legitimate way for customers to buy digital copies of their book is throwing away money and even customers.
Eventually TSR stopped making those blue maps. Customers wanted more colorful and useful maps. They wanted maps that helped them imagine the scene and presented tone. And bang bang, the blue map was dead. Today only nostalgia junkies looking to re-fire those neural pathways of their youth make or buy products with blue maps, forgetting the strange fear of progress that brought them to being in the first place. One day, I predict, the only physical books we will see around the table are fun little retro products or the occasional indy RPG. Sure, we may still be five years away from that, but it’s probably closer to two. I can only hope that Wizards realizes that eventually their ban on digital copies of rulebooks and adventures is the blue map of our day. A road bump, a reminder, but one that’s well past its usefulness.
The questions this week is hypothetical. Imagine you decided to illegally download a RPG product. What made you decide to do it? Would you still buy the legal copy? Why or why not?

Decisions and other things

I have been racking my brain, as of late, on how I want this blog to look like.  After looking at multiple other blogs, I have decided to go with the design that I have.  I lack both experience and aptitude when dealing with the graphic arts.  The title of this blog comes from gaming room that I setup at, and may be a bit deceiving.  First Edition AD&D is a favorite RPG and I want to have many posts dealing with it.  That being said, there are also many other RPGs that I own and have or will produce material for that I would like to share. 

The Renaissance of older editions of Dungeons and Dragons is awesome.  I am lucky to either own physical copies of books, modules and supplements, or have .PDFs of the same.  It was a real shame when Wizards of the Co$t stopped selling their older edition material on sites such as and  I guess I was blessed that I was able to pick up a majority of the material that I was lacking before they started their sales moratorium.  I think that it's great that other fans have released their own versions or material of older editions, and have viewed as much as time has allowed. 

I laugh at the decision that Wizards of the Co$t has made in creating a new edition.  I understand the business reasoning behind this decision, but I still get a kick out of it.  Their staunch apologists defended them tooth and nail, and have done so since the Third Edition came out.  I have made the 'mistake' of posting my views and have been beaten like a red-headed step child for it.  They squeeze as much money as they can from their loyal followers, then toss them aside when a new edition is created.  I guess I need to get over my bad self, as I am still disgusted when Second Edition came out in the late 1980's.  TSR was the culprit then, as Wizards of the Co$t is now.

I have to admit that I do like THAC0!  ;).  Good bye for now!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Changes are a coming.......

I want to thank Gerald Villoria for his help in making this more of a finished product.  Stay tuned for some real content!  Thanks.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Blog design help

As I stated earlier, I am new to blogs.  I would appreciate some help in designing this blog to look like this one;  My email is  Many thanks,


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

First Edition Fun first post


I am new to blogging, so it may take a while to get things rolling.  I would like to have a place where I can put a majority of the RPG notes, ideas, etc. that I formulate.